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Thunder Mountain Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Camelback and Fish Creek Mountain, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams from Thunder Mountain (bobcat)
Woolly sunflower (Eriophyllum lanatum), Thunder Mountain (bobcat)
Approaching the summit through the bear-grass, Thunder Mountain (bobcat)
Tall trees, Thunder Mountain Trail (bobcat)
The Thunder Mountain Trail #543 (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: MapBuilder Topo
  • Start point: Thunder Mountain TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Thunder Mountain
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: Out and Back
  • Distance: 3.1 miles
  • Elevation gain: 965 feet
  • High Point: 5,186 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: Late spring into fall
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No

Contents

Description

Thunder Mountain is the second highest peak along the 15-mile-long Fish Creek Divide, the high ridge between the Fish Creek and Clackamas River drainages that runs from Baty Butte to Whale Head. The area is remote, with somewhat lengthy access along gravel forest roads, and the trail can be brushy with a few downed trees. However, the slopes of Thunder Mountain shelter old-growth conifers, especially Douglas-firs and noble firs, and there's a colorful display of forest and summit wildflowers on the route. You're likely to be the only visitors on any given day, and the views from the old lookout site on Thunder Mountain extend from Mount Rainier to the Three Sisters.

Walk to the left of a large berm, and pass some new signs for the Thunder Mountain Trail #542 and Skookum Lake Trail #543 (This is the only official signage you’ll see on this hike). Plunge through a thimbleberry thicket, and hike up along a brushy slope, the trail bordered by boxwood and vine maple. Switchback past an empty signboard before traversing up another thimbleberry slope, getting a view to Olallie Butte. Enter an old growth montane forest of mountain hemlock, silver fir, noble fir, western hemlock, and Douglas-fir with an understory of rhododendrons that bloom in late June. Pass two small springs next to the trail – the second has its own faucet! Hike through a lush meadow where a large noble fir has fallen along the trail. Then rise in silver fir forest to make a switchback and long traverse up. Make another switchback, and traverse through bear-grass and huckleberries under mountain hemlocks. Make a fifth switchback at a clifftop viewpoint that looks south to Battle Ax, Olallie Butte, and Mount Jefferson. Switchback again to the ridge crest, and come to the unsigned Thunder Mountain-Skookum Lake Trail Junction.

Go right here up the spine of the ridge, and swish through bear-grass until you make two short switchbacks up to the summit of Thunder Mountain. This was an old lookout site, and some of the foundation remains. On a good day, the views are spectacular. You will be looking north up the Fish Creek valley to Fish Creek Mountain with Camelback to your left. On the northern horizon are Mount Hood and, left to right, Mount Saint Helens, Mount Rainier, and Mount Adams. Look south to pick out the snow-capped peaks of Mount Jefferson and the Three Sisters. Creamy stonecrop, bear-grass, and woolly sunflower are some of the mid-summer blooms on the peak.

If you want to hike farther, see the Skookum Lake Hike or the Baty Butte via Thunder Mountain Hike.


Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Thunder Mountain Trail #543 (USFS)
  • Green Trails Maps: Battle Ax, OR #524
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Clackamas River Ranger District
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • 105 Virtual Hikes of the Mt. Hood National Forest by Northwest Hiker
  • Off the Beaten Trail by Matt Reeder
  • 101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region by Matt Reeder

More Links


Page Contributors

Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.